REVIEW – Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation

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Beyond the tabloid silliness, there’s one thing indisputable about Tom Cruise – the man wants to please his audience. In the best possible way it’s an old-school ethos – let’s watch a guy fight as damn hard as he can to provide action and fun on the big screen. In some ways he’s like Jackie Chan with a few more safety harnesses and model good looks – confident in doing his own stunts, almost pathologically desperate to make sure that the films give everything they need to in order to work as entertainment.

There’s a purity to Tom Cruise playing Ethan Hunt over the last few decades, an unadulterated vision of this particular character that he’s eminently capable of playing. For one, he’s an action star that still has acting chops – this isn’t just 80s shlock heroes like Segal that were fundamentally one note. Cruise has done many things that are risible, but only the most churlish would think he can’t do drama as well as this fluffy stuff.

Yet the Mission Impossible films never feel like he’s slumming them in order to do his next art-film project (especially given that one of the most artfully successfully films he’s done in the last while is Edge Of Tomorrow). Cruise is very much in control of these projects, shepherding them both as lead and producer through the run. He’s picked very interesting directors, from Woo to DePalma, and generates scripts that take this silly little spy television show and make it truly cinematic.

Rogue Nation feels a bit safe in the grand scheme of these projects, only because it’s in some ways less flashy than the previous films. Storywise it’s a bit needlessly convoluted, with the setpieces connected with an overarching conspiracy that’s not particularly engaging. Still, it does allow Hunt and his team to go a bit, well, rogue, and to feel like it’s all underdog stuff. Alas, this ends up echoing the Daniel Craig James Bond and series of Bourne films, movies that very much are connected to the aesthetic MI series.

Cruise runs around and punches some people, and even shows some good core strength for the yoga crowd. Yes, he hangs off the edge of a plane, but the brief sequence seems more silly than scary (as opposed to, say, jumping off the Burj while being captured with IMAX cameras). His co-star Rebecca Feguson is decidedly kick-ass, both visually stunning and plausibly tough, without ever succumbing to be a trophy love interest.

The ragtag gang is back trying to bring down the “Syndicate”, yet another silly meta-bad guy group (I worry, for the record, about the spectre of Spectre in the same way). The spy tropes abound, and from a plot point of view we’re getting nothing we haven’t seen before.

So, instead we’re left with a charming dynamic between the leads, with Cruise most assuredly still able to pull off this character convincingly. As summer entertainment it’s enjoyable if not particularly memorable, and as much as that feels a backhanded compliment it’s actually pretty much the entirety of the reason this kind of films exists. Told without snark or irony, Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation, like Cruise himself it seems, lives to entertain.

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